When mixing dogs and children have you at your wits’ end

My brother and sister-in-law have a toddler, a newborn baby, and two dogs. With everything that has been going on they have been having a really hard time with one of their dogs and it has gotten to the point where they are contemplating getting rid of one or both of them. I am not here to judge. Some dogs don’t do well with change, some require more attention, training, or exercise and may not be the right fit for a family with children. If I was in their situation would I be giving them up? No, but I’m not them and I don’t have kids so who am I to judge. Everyone has to make the best decisions they can for themselves and for their family. So what am I here to say? I would just like to bring up some food for thought. I would like to start off with dog training. If you are thinking about starting a family in the future, or even if not, really think about dog training. Simple commands like sit, place, off, etc. can really go a long way. Training also includes breaking bad habits such as jumping. What may be annoying but tolerable before kids may end up being a big problem when you have a baby or toddler in the house. Every dog can benefit from obedience training. Also it works best to practice positive techniques (positive reinforcement) than negative. Clicker training is also a great tool. The next thing would be to consider crate training. Crate training doesn’t work for every dog and may even make some dogs more anxious but for others it can be a perfect solution. For some dogs a crate can be a safe place for them to go and hide when things get hectic, which can often be the case with kids. The important thing is to make the crate a safe place, never a punishment. For my brothers dog, one problem is that she isn’t used to being outside as much when the family is home so she has been barking to get let inside. A crate may help this situation by allowing her to be around the family but out of the way as well. Another option that may have helped her would have been getting her used to being outside more often when the family was home before the baby arrived. Some other tips include teaching your kids at a young age what is appropriate behavior around dogs. This is very important and can help prevent dog bites. This means no sitting or climbing on them and not pulling on their ears or tails. Other options to consider are doggie day care or a dog walker to help relieve some of their energy, this can be especially true with a newborn. Also don’t forget to talk to your veterinarian, I can’t emphasize this enough. Let them know what is going on and any change in behavior that you are seeing in your pets. They may suggest more exercise, training classes, or they may find that your dog is displaying anxiety due to all the new changes. In some dogs anti-anxiety medications may be beneficial, obviously only when properly prescribed by your veterinarian. The last word of advice is to give yourself a break. The last thing you want to do is make a rash decision. Board your pet or ask a friend or family member to care for them to allow you some time to get your head straight. Give yourself at least a week to reset and re-evaluate the situation. If you still find that you need to find a new home for them then don’t feel guilty, especially if you tried your best. While rehoming a pet is never easy and I’m sure not what you had intended for your pet, keeping a pet that is adding frustration or perhaps not safe around your child is never a good idea. Every pet deserves a loving home as part of the family and unfortunately with growing families your pet may no longer be a good fit anymore. I just beg of you to not take this decisions lightly and to have given them a chance by trying some of the above methods, unless of course your family is endanger due to aggressive behavior. Also if possible try to find a friend or family member that would be a great new home for them. This will make the transition easier for you and them. I hope you are never in this situation but unfortunately it is quite common and I feel it should be discussed. Often times no one wants to ask for help or for ideas because they feel guilty even thinking about getting rid of a pet. Please reach out and talk about your frustrations because maybe, just maybe, there is a solution before a decision needs to be made.

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